head start: meaning and explanation

The meaning of the expression head start is an advantage you have over someone else. This could be in a competition (e.g. a race), or more generally (e.g. in life).

When you decide that someone should be given an advantage (usually to make a situation fairer), we can say that you should give them a head start. If the advantage already exists, you can say that someone has a head start.

We can use the prepositions over/against/on if you want to include the people or things that someone has an advantage over, e.g. My language skills gave me a bit of a head start over my colleagues.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Ireland

up bilingual can a life.

About the sentence

…Bringing children up to be bilingual…

Notice the important phrasal verb to bring someone up. Do you know the meaning?

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

, .
little brother 30 , otherwise won't race.

About the sentence

…Otherwise it won’t be a fair race…

Otherwise is a useful way of introducing a conditional sentence.

Otherwise = If not. e.g. You need to leave in the next 5 minutes. Otherwise you’ll miss your flight.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Northern England

Hopefully I already company will bit of against the job.

About the sentence

…the fact that I already work for the company…

The fact that is an extremely useful phrase in English. In this sentence, it is used to make a clause (I already work for the company) the subject of the sentence. e.g. The fact that I have done this kind of interview before should make the process a bit easier for me this time

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • In your country, what kind of things might give someone a head start in life?
  • Were you given a head start in life, or are you trying to give your children a head start in life?